Are you curious about benefits tech and looking to learn more about how you can maximize your employee benefits? We sat down with League CEO Mike Serbinis to learn more about how technology can help transform and elevate traditional benefits management.
HR Leader: What are the different kinds of benefits technology available to employers?
Mike Serbinis (MS): Organizations have access to a plethora of benefits technologies — those that focus on the HR team and those that focus on the employee. Benefits technologies have traditionally focused on the HR team by providing them with tools to administer and manage benefits. Now, more solutions are entering the market that aim to improve employees’ benefits experience and their ability to enroll, engage and use their benefits offerings.
Some of these technologies include:
- Benefits Administration. Software aimed at helping HR teams administer and manage benefits across their organization. (Examples: bswift, Alight)
- HRIS. Software that provides a centralized repository of employee data and enables HR teams to manage processes like performance management and payroll. (Examples: Namely, Workday)
- Digital Navigators. Solutions that help employees understand their benefits and find the most appropriate care based on their selections. (Examples: Castlight, Evive)
- Wellbeing Platforms. Platforms designed to engage employees in programs and challenges that improve their health. (Examples: Limeade, Virgin Pulse)
- Virtual Care. Employees are able to receive personalized care from medical professionals through online chat, audio or live video. (Examples: Inkling, Teladoc)
- Health Benefits Experience. Platforms that enable employees to be better healthcare consumers by delivering health and benefits tools in one place. They plug into existing HRIS systems and act as a single access point for benefits administration, navigation, wellbeing and virtual care. (Example: League)
HR Leader: How can technology make benefits administration more flexible and efficient, both for employers and companies?
MS: Technology is critical to a successful benefits administration program. It allows an HR team to automate workflows, accurately report on employees and their benefits elections, advance employees’ understanding of available benefit options through enhanced and targeted communication and decision support tools, ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements, and maintain the flexibility to outsource several of the inquiries that have traditionally bogged down HR operations teams by way of member chat features.
When the technology is built with the employee in mind, offering an engaging, intuitive and consistent experience before enrollment even begins, more employees will want to use it and will be encouraged to make more consistent use of benefits programs. This, in turn, helps HR teams be more efficient, allowing them to focus on strategic initiatives that drive better outcomes and improve employee satisfaction.
HR Leader: How can technology help HR professionals match employees with benefits packages that best meet their needs?
MS: Recent advancements in benefits technology have helped HR teams better support their employees in selecting the most appropriate plans for their needs in two key ways. First, technology allows for more targeted and personalized communication ahead of the actual election process, encouraging members to evaluate their options and understand the implications of each level of coverage and potential changes in network, which leads to more informed and educated employees. Second, decision support tools used during enrollment are able to help a member narrow down their options by incorporating factors such as an employee’s claims history, health, annual goals, and aversion to financial risk into a suggested plan based on the member’s individual situation. With these abilities, HR teams can help members select the most appropriate level of coverage for their unique needs and make benefits decisions with more confidence, becoming more informed healthcare users in the process.
HR Leader: What kind of insights can HR professionals gain through data generated by benefits technology?
MS: Taking a digital approach has delivered massive efficiency gains, but to sustain and scale this model, digital solutions need constant access to accurate and integrated data. Fortunately, employers have access to rich data sets so their focus should be on how to best leverage the data to personalize their offerings.
Using analytics, HR professionals can break down big data to extract information and identify trends and patterns which can be used to build more useful benefit packages. Insights gained from big data contribute to HR’s understanding of how their employees are using benefits as well as what necessary adjustments need to be made to ensure offerings are more aligned with an employee’s needs. With the number of benefit offerings available, it’s easy to provide too much choice, so employers need to harness the data carefully to strike the right balance, achieving the right mix of benefits while remaining personalizedpersonalized enough to meet employee needs.
Data gleaned from predictive analysts and similar tools can be used to anticipate behaviors and determine if certain offerings are more likely to be desirable or used by employees. For example, if more millennials are entering the family planning stages, organizations can use that data to implement or iterate on benefits such as paid leave or in vitro fertilization and other related offerings.
As employers offer more personalized health plans, insights from data will be used to create unique health journeys for different employee segments which in the long run can help manage healthcare costs.
HR Leader: What kinds of features do today’s employees seem to look for when it comes to managing benefits?
MS: In the digital world, where employees have 24/7 access to everything they need in an instant, employees want accessible, digital and personalized solutions that fit their needs in an easy-to-use interface. Health benefits often come with many restrictions.Forcing employees to print a form, scan it back or (even worse) mail it is enough to make any busy modern employee forego the process. Benefits management should be as easy as accessing an online bank account.
According to experts, more than 1,400 HR tech companies are trying to sell solutions to improve employee experience, but employers are often left with fragmented options that are impossible to navigate. This is a main reason why only 19% of employees have a high understanding of their benefits. For most employees, health insurance and benefits is the lens through which they see their personal healthcare, so it’s important that employers offer unmatched choice in one, cohesive hub, rather than offerings that are fragmented and impossible to navigate.
In the current talent market, employers must go above and beyond traditional benefits as 50% of employees have left jobs after learning about better benefits offered elsewhere. Employees want benefits that empower them to engage with their health, lifestyle and benefit programs. Additional benefits such as commuter stipends, pet insurance and lifestyle spending accounts — that can be used toward lifestyle items such as art therapy or yoga pants — go a long way in keeping employees happy. Incentivizing healthy habits and offering health rewards is also a great way for employees to engage with their benefits more frequently.
Additionally, employers need to do a better job at not only communicating benefit offerings, but simplifying the enrollment process to alleviate confusion and decision fatigue — this can be done through technology, counseling or other educational avenues. By making it clear what benefits are available and how employees can make the most of them, employers can have a meaningful impact driving engagement.
HR Leader: Going forward, how do you think benefits technology will evolve in scope and emphasis? How might disruptors like AI and virtual reality play into this?
MS: Tech application within the benefit space is increasing as new advances in AI, natural-language processing and virtual reality come to fruition. As consumer demand grows, technology will continue enabling more tailored and engaging options. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a prominent role in helping organizations create fully personalized offerings and make smart recommendations that meet employees’ needs.
Virtual reality can also play a key role, especially as telehealth use continues to rise. It can be useful in educating employees on positive lifestyle choices and enabling positive choices daily. It can also be gamified to increase engagement when used as a learning tool.
HR Leader: In your opinion, how might HR professionals prepare for these developments?
MS: Companies are realizing that, to best adapt to the future of work, they need strategic, business-savvy HR leaders to help them navigate the rapidly changing environment. With HR accepted as a strategic partner that can drive business results, benefits administration should be outsourced to enable HR teams to dedicate time to high-level work while keeping abreast of any emerging trends.
The workforce is evolving, which puts the onus on HR teams to respond quickly and effectively in order to best manage their people. Many HR leaders are reskilling themselves to become more familiar with advanced technologies and applications for better implementation, whether through internal systems or vendor offerings.
League is an enterprise health OS that is designed to provide a single-access hub for employees to engage with health, lifestyle and benefit programs.
Tags: Technology , Total Rewards , Benefit Programs , employee experience , Operations